Loving Lagos

Imagine a city more than twice as crowded as New York City. Lagos, Nigeria is the most populous city in Africa, and every year, 250,000 people move there. It’s a cultural hub that sets the direction for Nigeria. In turn, Nigeria sets the direction for Africa.

The spiritual climate is a vibrant nominalism with a health and wealth gospel message. But promises delivered by this prosperity gospel haven’t delivered, and people are disillusioned and leaving the church.

Femi Osunnuyi grew up in Lagos. He moved to the UK in 2007 where he lived for seven years and earned a Ph.D. in engineering.

While in Manchester, England, Femi heard the teaching that God loves cities, and it really captivated his heart. He and some friends started praying for a gospel-centered movement to ignite in the churches in Lagos. He knew about CTC, so when Al Barth was speaking in Manchester, Femi attended the event. He recalls, “I had the Rocky theme song playing in the back of my head as I rehearsed stats about Lagos, preparing to accuse Al and CTC of ignoring Africa’s largest city. But as soon as he knew where I was from, Al quoted several statistics about Lagos that I didn’t even know.” CTC had identified Lagos as a target city and was searching for the right person to plant a church there.

After experiencing true gospel renewal in their own lives while in the UK, Femi and his wife, Tosin, wanted to share this with others. In 2015, they moved back to Lagos and launched City Church Lagos in January 2017.

City Church Lagos is growing and already needs a bigger meeting place. Femi and others are actively looking, but money is a challenge. Lagos is the seventh most expensive city in the world. This is a struggle, and they would so appreciate your prayers.

Another obstacle is the pace of life. The average work day in Lagos is long. It’s not unusual for people to leave their homes at 5:30 am and not get home until 10 pm. Burnout is a huge issue.

Because the prosperity gospel is so prevalent, Femi, Tosin and others at the church have studied it extensively. Femi says, “We think the questions the prosperity gospel is asking are legitimate. We don’t engage in a condescending way. People understandably want a better life. There is a plausible logic to their thinking. We think their conclusions are wrong, but we understand how they got there. We are trying to paint a better picture. We try to come in the back and slowly teach what the Bible really says.” Their approach seems to be effective, as about 50% of their congregants were formerly part of churches that held to health and wealth teaching.

The church’s three values are: Love Jesus. Love people. Love Lagos. Femi says the first two are considerably easy to talk about. The third is the hard sell. He points to the gospel as the example. “God loved us while we were unlovely, and so we too are called to love cities that are not always lovely. We shouldn’t love the city to use it—to fulfill our dreams—to get what we can get out of it.” He says that a lot of love starts with intentionality before it moves to the heart. He sees hatred of the city slowly shifting to neutrality, and he’s encouraged.

CTC’s Al Barth has continued to be a mentor and a friend to Femi and City Church Lagos. The church has three small groups, and the community is growing and strengthening. Femi says, “There’s a lot of personal renewal and community building going on, and we are looking into the mission aspect now.”

Thank you, Femi and Tosin, for answering the call to return to and love Lagos with the gospel of Jesus Christ.